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Friday, April 29, 2016

Thirty Years of Roger Clemens



Thirty years ago today I was introduced to a guy named Roger Clemens.  He would beat the Mariners 3-1 that night in front of just 13,000 fans at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox would move to 10-8 on the season but the big story was how Clemens won the game. He would pitch 9 innings, give up just 3 hits, 1 run and oh yeah...he would strike out 20 batters.
Clemens would raise his record to 4-0. He would win his next ten decisions to start the season 14-0. He would eventually win the AL Cy Young and the AL MVP that season. As for the Red Sox, they would do pretty well too. 1986 was a special season as the Red Sox  would go on to win the AL East and the ALCS and of course would come just an out away from being World Champions.
It all started 30 years ago. The Red Sox had not won more than 90 games in a season since 1979 which was also the last season Fenway had drawn more than two million fans. 1986 changed everything and in particular that cold night in late April.
Despite the lousy attendance that night, the Red Sox would draw just over two million fans to Fenway in 1986. The Red Sox have never drawn less than two million fans to Fenway in a full season since. Red Sox fans like to believe the ballpark has always been sold out and full of life. That was not always the case.
Roger Clemens was my favorite player as a child. There was nobody better in my eyes. Ten years later he would leave the Red Sox and I would blame Dan Duquette. He would dominate with the Blue Jays and my hate for Duquette would grow stronger. I was slow to embrace Pedro Martinez because he wasn't Roger Clemens.
Roger would then put on the pinstripes and my stomach turned. Stories would come out about his steroid use and his explanations were just moronic. The 11 year old boy inside of me was proven wrong. I blasted Roger in this blog post. I called him The Texas Con Man, a phrase that Will McDonough used for Clemens while he was playing for the Red Sox. I hated McDonough for it as a kid and I hated myself for now agreeing with him.
I continued to blast my boyhood hero in this blog post, I understand the hate for him. However, the 11 year old inside of me can't help but look at the date today and smile. Is it time to forgive him? Is it time to retire his number? Maybe not, but it is time to give him his due. He dominated in Boston and he dominated 30 years ago tonight. The Red Sox Renaissance started with him on April 29th, 1986.  You have to at least tip your Red Sox cap in his direction for that!
Here is the inning by inning breakdown of that historic game back on April 29, 1986
Starting Lineups:

   Seattle Mariners              Boston Red Sox           
1. Owen                ss        Evans               rf
2. P. Bradley          lf        Boggs               3b
3. Phelps              1b        Buckner             dh
4. Thomas              dh        Rice                lf
5. Presley             3b        Baylor              1b
6. Calderon            rf        Gedman              c
7. Tartabull           2b        Barrett             2b
8. Henderson           cf        Lyons               cf
9. Yeager              c         Hoffman             ss
   Moore               p         Clemens             p

MARINERS 1ST: Owen struck out; P. Bradley struck out; Phelps
struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 1ST: Evans struck out; Boggs grounded out (shortstop to
first); Buckner flied out to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. 
Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

MARINERS 2ND: Thomas lined to left; Presley struck out; Calderon
was called out on strikes; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Mariners 0,
Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 2ND: Rice flied out to right; Baylor singled; Gedman
grounded out (second to first) [Baylor to second]; Barrett flied
out to center; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

MARINERS 3RD: Tartabull grounded out (second to first);
Henderson was called out on strikes; Yeager flied out to center;
0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 3RD: Lyons flied out to center; Hoffman struck out;
Evans singled; Boggs flied out to left; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. 
Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

MARINERS 4TH: Owen singled; P. Bradley struck out; Phelps struck
out; Baylor dropped a foul fly hit by Thomas for an error;
Thomas was called out on strikes; 0 R, 1 H, 1 E, 1 LOB. 
Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 4TH: Buckner grounded out (shortstop to first); Rice
singled; Baylor struck out while Rice was caught stealing second
(catcher to second); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox
0.

MARINERS 5TH: Presley was called out on strikes; Calderon was
called out on strikes; Tartabull was called out on strikes; 0 R,
0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 5TH: Gedman singled [Gedman out at second (right to
shortstop)]; Barrett walked; Lyons flied out to center; Hoffman
forced Barrett (third to second); 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. 
Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

MARINERS 6TH: Henderson struck out; Yeager was called out on
strikes; Owen flied out to center; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. 
Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 6TH: Evans reached on an error by Tartabull [Evans to
first]; Evans was caught stealing second (catcher to second);
Boggs walked; Buckner doubled [Boggs to third]; Rice grounded
out (shortstop to first); Baylor struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 1 E, 2
LOB.  Mariners 0, Red Sox 0.

MARINERS 7TH: P. Bradley struck out; Phelps struck out; Thomas
homered; Presley grounded out (first to pitcher); 1 R, 1 H, 0 E,
0 LOB.  Mariners 1, Red Sox 0.

RED SOX 7TH: Gedman popped to third; Barrett grounded out
(shortstop to first); Lyons singled; Hoffman walked [Lyons to
second]; ROMERO RAN FOR HOFFMAN; Evans homered [Lyons scored,
Romero scored]; Boggs flied out to left; 3 R, 2 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. 
Mariners 1, Red Sox 3.

MARINERS 8TH: ROMERO STAYED IN GAME (PLAYING SS); Calderon
struck out; Tartabull singled; Henderson struck out; COWENS
BATTED FOR YEAGER; Cowens flied out to center; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 1
LOB.  Mariners 1, Red Sox 3.

RED SOX 8TH: KEARNEY REPLACED COWENS (PLAYING C ); Buckner
singled; Rice grounded out (shortstop to first) [Buckner to
second]; Baylor walked; YOUNG REPLACED MOORE (PITCHING); Gedman
flied out to center; BEST REPLACED YOUNG (PITCHING); Barrett
struck out; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 2 LOB.  Mariners 1, Red Sox 3.

MARINERS 9TH: STAPLETON REPLACED BAYLOR (PLAYING 1B); Owen
struck out; P. Bradley was called out on strikes; Phelps
grounded out (shortstop to first); 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. 
Mariners 1, Red Sox 3.

Final Totals      R   H   E  LOB
 Mariners         1   3   1    2
 Red Sox          3   8   1    7

BOXSCORE
 Watch the full game here


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Is This Heaven? No, It's Columbia. SC


It was 2003 in Capital City Stadium where I got to witness Scott Kazmir of the Capital City Bombers face Hanley Ramirez of the Augusta Greenjackets. It is what makes minor league baseball great, two top prospects facing off as kids.
It would be the last minor league baseball game I would see in Columbia for a long time. Columbia, SC would lose the Bombers the next year and go twelve years without a professional baseball team. It made no sense. Adding insult to injury, the Bombers would move to Greenville and become a Red Sox affiliate and play in a brand new ballpark designed to look like Fenway Park. Talk about a kick in the gut.
Baseball is back in Columbia and it is better than ever. The Columbia Fireflies, a New York Mets affiliate once again, opened up their brand new park facing who else but the Greenville Drive.
Spirit Communications Park has very little in common with Capital City Stadium and really any ballpark in the South Atlantic League. The spacious press box not only provides a great view, but also the voice of play-by-play guy Kevin Fitzgerald piped in throughout the room. It is a very different experience from thirteen years earlier when I would frequent South Atlantic League press boxes. There is nothing minor league about it.
CCFPressbox (1)
As for the fan experience, you have have everything you need. Great sight lines, the grassy Bojangles Berm in the outfield and bounce house play areas for the kids.
The park is also easy on the eyes and really caters to the baseball purist. The outfield wall is a dark classic green with very little signage. The dimensions are also unique. There is nothing worse than a cookie cutter style outfield. There is nothing cookie cutter about this outfield. Right-center has a Fenway Park-like triangle and down the line in left a small portion of the wall is set back and also higher. The park has character, not bad for only being a couple days old.
CCFDimensions1
CCFDimensions2
As for actual baseball, the Greenville Drive are making the new ballpark look like a hitter's park. Through three games of the four game series, the Drive have homered five times, winning two of them.
Professional baseball is back in Columbia. Maybe this is heaven after all.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Clay Buchholz: The Mental Midget


Clay Buchholz was dominant in his first start last season. It was Opening Day against the Phillies and he looked like an ace. I was not fooled then and last night didn't shock me. Here is a blog post I did last year on April 29th. What I wrote is as true now as it was then. It is also some great advice for some of you who can't stand to watch Clay pitch. Here it is:
April 29th, 2015
As I went through my twitter timeline last night I saw a lot of angry tweets from Red Sox fans as they endured watching Clay Buchholz pitch. It made me sigh in relief. I used to be one of those people. Those days are gone. I officially gave up on Clay Buchholz ever becoming a top pitcher last year. Curt Schilling has been saying this for a while now, he has the stuff just not anything in between his ears.
Opening Day did make me raise my eyebrows a bit, I even thought to myself that maybe I was wrong. Maybe the role as "ace" will transform his fragile head. Nope. Clay is the classic front runner. He is great when he is feeling great, all his pitches are working and the umps are giving him the calls. Give him a just a little adversity and he folds like a cheap suit. Much like the Daisuke Matsuzaka era, I can't stand even to watch Clay pitch. I did watch Opening Day, only because it was Opening Day. However, I make a conscious choice not to watch games in which he pitches. I still follow the score on twitter and my various MLB apps, but I am not going to subject myself to watching him throw a pitch from the mound. It is excruciating. The good news is that when he does get shelled early and the bullpen is called early, I can start watching the game and catch a good bit of it like last night for example. Give up on him Red Sox fans, it will make games like last night easier to deal with, it has for me. As for the angry tweets, stop them. It is a lost cause. The funny ones? Keep those coming.